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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bruce Fessier has seen the Coachella Valley’s arts and entertainment culture completely change—repeatedly—during the 40 years he’s worked as the entertainment writer at The Desert Sun.

On June 3, Fessier’s column will be appearing for the last time before he heads into retirement.

“The industry has changed quite a bit, and it’s not as satisfying as it used to be,” Fessier said during a recent interview at The Desert Sun’s offices. “I still have some brain cells, so I would still like to do some other things before I no longer have those brain cells. I never wanted to spend my entire life as a journalist. It just kind of worked out that way. Having the opportunity to take an early-retirement benefit gives me enough of a cushion that I can try some other things.”

When Fessier arrived at The Desert Sun in 1979, there wasn’t much to cover.

“I often say that the difference between now and then is that when I first started, there wasn’t enough entertainment to have a calendar,” Fessier said. “Now there is so much entertainment that they don’t want me spending my time assembling a calendar. So I don’t do a calendar anymore, and I’m back to where I started. I covered the nightclubs, and I covered the lounge scene. They had concerts at Palm Springs High School, and most were either big band or classical.”

Fessier said skater culture was helping launch a local music scene when he started at The Desert Sun.

“There was a guy named Myke Bates who started a company called Bates Skates. That became the centerpiece for this skating culture,” Fessier said. “There was a rebellion that was happening right after I got here. A lot of the people were skateboarding and roller-skating on sidewalks in Palm Springs. The city of Palm Springs created ordinances to prohibit them from skating. This guy Bates was the head of the skating culture and was a punk-rocker. He was in the band Target 13. That generated this punk-rock culture, and I started covering a lot of that. Most of that was in Desert Hot Springs and not in Palm Springs itself, but there was a real scene that was developing. I covered that in the early days, and it was always the alternative to the classical stuff you’d see at Palm Springs High School and the lounge scene.”

Fessier was around when the desert generator scene developed. Bands such as Kyuss and Fatso Jetson played shows in the middle of the desert as they cut their teeth—and Fessier doesn’t agree with the modern romanticization of those desert parties.

“I went out to one generator party, and it was just terrible conditions,” he said. “Never mind how dangerous it was; it was the type of thing where there was so much sand blowing. It would get in your face and all the instruments, and it was just not enjoyable. … I would see some of those guys at Adrian’s Dance Club or something like that, but I can’t say I was a participant in the generator scene.

“Back in 1989, you could hear this music coming out from the middle of nowhere, and you didn’t know where it was coming from, because they never told anybody. Jesse Hughes (of Eagles of Death Metal) recently posted on Facebook about how I covered him in the early days. I saw him and one of his bands at this drive-through Italian restaurant in Cathedral City where you could get spaghetti for $2, and he was playing there. That’s the thing: You’d see these people playing in little nooks and crannies. Even though I didn’t go out and hang out in the hills, I was still aware of what was going on.”

There was one name in town that you couldn’t avoid back then.

“Everybody idolized Sinatra in those days,” Fessier said. “I wrote a column one time back then about how you could go to every bar in town and hear ‘New York, New York.’ I got so sick of that song. That came out in 1979, and everybody was singing it. That’s what it was like in 1979 in Palm Springs. They were all close personal friends of Frank and all had stories about him, and I’d run into him at all these different places. That was kind of fun, actually.

“I wasn’t really a big Frank Sinatra fan at the time, but just seeing the impact he had on all the people and discovering his generosity in person—it made me a big fan of his. Once I stopped getting over the generational thing that I had and started appreciating his music, I became a big Frank Sinatra fan.”

Fessier remembered seeing both the good side and the bad side of the Chairman of the Board.

“He was mercurial. If you caught him on a good day, you were intoxicated by him. If you caught him on a bad day, you were scared to death of him. I saw him on both sides,” Fessier said. “The first time I was in a room with him was the first week I was entertainment editor. This PR guy decided he was going to take me around town and show me all the lounges and restaurants. He told me he was going to take me to Don the Beachcomber, because that was where Sinatra hung out. I had a friend with me at the time who was a real drunken kind of friend. I wasn’t expecting this to be any big deal, and the last thing I expected was to see Sinatra at this place.

“We get there, and there was Sinatra. Don the Beachcomber was a tiny place. He was at the bar with about 20 friends, and he’s entertaining them all. This red light came on, and he said, ‘When that red light comes on, I sing.’ This PR guy said, ‘You do not talk to Frank Sinatra.’ My friend was drunk and said, ‘I don’t care what you say; I know people who are big shots, and I’m going to go up to him and say hello.’ (My friend) brushed us aside and said, ‘Hey Frank,’ and Frank said, ‘Hey pal, how you doing?’ and shook his hand.

“Frank had this charisma, and it would hypnotize you a bit.”

Fessier also covered the local theater scene extensively.

“I saw the big change coming, and that was the McCallum Theatre (which opened in 1988),” he said. “When I got here, there was an organization called the Valley Players Guild, and they were always looking for their own home. Then there (was) the Palm Desert Community Theatre, and that was pretty much it. College of the Desert did their own shows. Then the McCallum (began) doing fundraising and the performing-arts series that they did at Palm Springs High School and the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It became apparent that would not only dwarf community theater, but take up all of The Desert Sun’s resources: I was going to be covering what was going on at the McCallum instead of community theater.

“That’s the reason I co-founded the Desert Theatre League in 1987, because there were more groups that were starting, and there were other splinter groups. I thought they needed some sort of a promotion that I wasn’t going to be able to provide, and an award show would be that kind of promotion. I wanted it to also be a networking opportunity for people to share their resources. My co-founder was an actor in town who also worked in the advertising department for The Desert Sun, so some of these splinter groups that didn’t have nonprofit status could get the lower nonprofit advertising rate by being a member.”

Fessier and I were two of the five journalists invited to cover Paul McCartney’s 2016 show at Pappy and Harriet’s. I remember seeing him disappear and reappear many times throughout the show.

“I had an early deadline,” Fessier explained. “We are always trying to be first, and so Robyn (Celia, the venue’s co-owner) let me use their office. Their office got so crazy with people coming in to where I went to the back of the office in this closet where I had my laptop, and I’d be writing and walking out to see what the commotion was. We didn’t get a photo pass, either, and I was trying to take pictures. That was crazy! … It was certainly historic, and I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.”

Fessier said covering the valley’s big festivals, Coachella especially, can be tiring and strenuous—but wind up being worth the trouble.

“Even today, the press accommodations are bad,” Fessier said. “I did an interview with (Coachella founder) Paul Tollett a week ago, and I was telling him how the press accommodations always suck. I told him, ‘You know what the sports guys get?’ The second year we were there, a colleague said that the press tent was four sticks and a canvas. The first year, they didn’t even have electricity in there. But at the time, it was so magical, because you could just walk up to people. I walked right up to Moby and did an interview. There was nobody setting up any press interviews. It was magical from the very beginning.”

Fessier made a prediction about Coachella’s future.

“It’s going to be international,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if J Balvin is the first international headliner not to use English as his primary language. That’s the direction it’s going in. It had more international stars this year than there were acts from the United States. Paul Tollett likes to nurture those guys and bring them up.”

Considering all the changes taking place in the media world, I had to ask: Do you feel that what we do will still matter in the future?

“I just did a talk to a class of broadcasters at College of the Desert, and I told them, ‘You’re living in an exciting time when you won’t need radio stations, and you won’t need newspapers, (but) you will need entrepreneurial skills to monetize your work. You have an opportunity to find out what you want to do and make a living at it without corporate ties,’” he said. “Working for a corporation is very frustrating. I’m happy to not have to be worried about rewriting some story from TMZ about herpes breaking out at Coachella.”

Fessier explained why he stayed at The Desert Sun for four decades.

“I got an offer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’m from San Francisco. I went to college there, and I always dreamed of going back to the Bay Area. But the salary they were offering me was not significantly more than what I was getting here,” he said. “I’ve always had other income opportunities and have never had to rely just on The Desert Sun. It’s between not being offered enough money and my wife saying, ‘I’m not going to live in Cincinnati!’

“This is a nice place to not only live but raise kids. I’m very proud that both of my kids are doing very well now. One is an animator for Bob’s Burgers, and the other one is managing a cannabis dispensary.”

Published in Features

Jared Huss is not a musician; instead, he’s arguably the most bad-ass skateboarder here in the Coachella Valley. Want proof? Check out this amazing shot here by photographer Orlando Welsh of Huss riding a rail atop a freeway overpass. Huss was recently kind enough to answer the Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Coachella 2008.

What was the first album you owned?

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP, the censored version.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Nirvana, Lou Reed and John Frusciante.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Country music.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

GG Allin, but I would be in the very back row for sure.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Enya.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Dream Baby Dream,” Suicide.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Bill Hicks, because I believe his comedy provides an answer.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Kurt Cobain: “How did you really die?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Bury Me a G,” 2pac.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Fugazi, 13 Songs.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Richard Strauss, “Also Sprach Zarathustra.“ (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

Ever since the Adicts formed in England in 1975, they’ve been an enigma within the punk-rock world.

Frontman Keith “Monkey” Warren wears face paint during live performances similar to that of The Joker in Batman. Shows include streamers, confetti, toy instruments, bubbles and other various surprises.

In other words, the group is truly unique. See for yourself when the Adicts perform at the Hood Bar and Pizza on Monday, June 20.

“I don’t know if we’re that original,” said guitarist Pete “Pete Dee” Davison during a recent interview. “We took a lot of things from everything. We took things from cabaret; we took things rock ’n’ roll bands that influenced us; we took it from cartoons; we took it from Batman—you name it.

“When we started, we didn’t know what we were fucking doing. We were just a bunch of kids, ruffians sitting around drinking beer, throwing ideas out. (We) were kind of at the end of the glam-rock thing. We had been through it and enjoyed that era. It just happened. We sat in a pub one night, and I drew the face and showed it to everybody. Monkey said, ‘No, I’m not doing that!’ I think it was about five days later when he called me up and said, ‘OK, I’ll do it!’”

Davison said Monkey is quite different onstage and off.

“It’s amazing what it did to transform (Monkey) as an entertainer. He’s a very introverted person,” Davison said. “He’s a very quiet guy. Put a mask on him, and he became a bit of a monster. I’ve heard the same thing about David Bowie: He created a monster with Ziggy Stardust. We sort of became Ziggy’s bastard sons, and we’re stuck with it.

“We tried to take the makeup off, given Monkey got tired of wearing it, but it didn’t work.”

The Adicts did not have an easy time when the group started out.

“We got everything thrown at us in the old days. Even the old music press didn’t know what to think of us. The punk-rockers didn’t take kindly to us,” Davison said. “You either got it, or you don’t, and I think the same thing applies now. I don’t really care about who likes us and doesn’t like us; it’s what we do, and what we do is what we do. We attract a really diverse audience.”

Anericans didn’t fully catch on to the Adicts for years; the band’s albums didn’t even get formally released domestically until the early 1990s.

“We don’t have money behind us, and you can’t really get our records anywhere, really,” Davison said. “So many different record labels, so many shit deals. It’s very hard to find our records anyway. America is so vast and big. You can advertise it all you want, and you’ll get lost. Twenty four hours later, and they’ve forgotten all about you. We’ve toured America more than most bands have. … It’s a very, very hard place to tour and there’s a lot of traveling involved, as well as a lot of different cultures and I really love that.”

The Adicts have found fans through the skateboarding culture in America. In fact, when pro-skater Kevin Staab appeared at the El Gato Classic in Palm Springs in 2015, he skated the vert ramp in a purple Adicts shirt.

“None of us can skateboard, which is amazing. None of us can surf, which is amazing. Yet for some reason, we’ve got along with all of these people,” Davison said. “I don’t understand it, but maybe it’s good music to skateboard to; I don’t really know.

“We just did a private show for Kevin Staab for his birthday. Everybody was there from Tony Hawk to Steve Caballero. You name it—they were all there, having a good time, and singing all the words.”

The Adicts have gone through several periods of inactivity over the years. Davison said there are good reasons for that.

“I’ve had health problems and operations; I’ve been out of action for some time and spent over a year in bed,” he said. “We have private lives, and we like taking rests after touring too much. You have to take a break from it. We’ve been doing this for a very long time.”

Davison revealed that he’s not a fan of the Adicts’ most recent album, 2012’s All the Young Droogs. However, he promised the next album will be nothing short of spectacular.

“We’re actually working on it right now. We’re about 80 percent of the way through it. We’re just trying to get people together to get it finished,” he said. “It’s a good album, let me tell you. Personally, I think it’s going to be our best one. A couple of the tracks right now are shit, but that’s normal, and we’ll make them damn good. We jammed as we did it, which was nice, and we recorded everything within three takes. We have a real album instead of rehearsing it and rehearsing it and having a producer suck the life out of it.

“The last album we did, I can’t listen to it, unfortunately. But this one will be very lively, very loud and very eclectic. If someone wants to criticize the album because they only like one song, tough shit. I like how it’s coming along, and I’m really enjoying what I’ve heard up to now.”

Davison now living in the United States.

“I live here, so I enjoy it full-stop,” he said. “I love living in California. I like the diversity of it all—meeting people with different mindsets or meeting people who are very uneducated in some places. It’s weird when you get to the Midwest, and there are a lot of people who know nothing about the rest of the world. Then there’s the food, the mixed cultures, the different political views, and the Christian belt—it’s all fascinating, really. Then you have the East Coast and you have the West Coast, which are very similar in their mindsets.”

Davison, like many, is not thrilled with the presidential race thus far.

“I think it’s a bit of an embarrassment to see what’s been going on over the past few months,” he said. “This reality-TV guy is taking all the headlines, and he’s a fruitcake, as far as I’m concerned—a sandwich short of a picnic. It’s what it is. He’s stirred up a lot of bad shit, and I don’t like it at all.”

The Adicts will be kicking off a U.S. tour at The Hood Bar and Pizza before moving on to two other dates in California, plus some shows in Canada and on the East Coast.

“We just finished a few gigs in Mexico, and we’re rocking,” he said. “We’re really playing great. It’s hard work, and we’ve been all over the world, and we’re exhausted by the time we play the next gig. It’s going to be the same for this tour: The boys will fly in from England the day before; they’ll be jet-lagged; we might make a lot of mistakes onstage, but who cares? We’ll have a good time, and it’ll be a nice little starter as a small show. We like to do that: We like to do a smaller gig just as a warm up, and you’ll never know what you’ll get.”

The Adicts will perform with Bridger, Facelift and the Sweat Act at 9 p.m., Monday, June 20, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $20. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews

During the rise of professional skateboarding in the late ’70s and ’80s, one man involved in the industry became known not for riding a skateboard, but for the photos he took of skateboarding’s rising stars.

Meet Jim Goodrich. He’ll be one of the legends appearing at the El Gato Classic in Palm Springs Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6.

During a recent phone interview, Goodrich explained how he became a photographer.

“It really was an accident,” Goodrich said. “I had a photography class when I was in high school, but I was sort of a kid without direction back in those early days. My brother started skateboarding, and that’s what got me interested in it. I got a homemade board and didn’t really know anything about the skateboarding scene. I played around with photography while I was in high school and never really thought about it. I just wanted to skate like all kids do.

“I don’t know if I would say I wasn’t very good at skating. … Living in San Diego, skate parks hadn’t really come along quite yet, and I was skating in competitions doing slalom with some of the best skaters in the world. I was always pushing myself beyond what my skills were back then, and I kept falling and breaking body parts. When my arm was in a cast, I decided to buy a cheap little camera and take pictures of my friends.”

At the time, there was a demand for photos of skateboarding for magazines. Warren Bolster, of Skateboarder Magazine, is responsible for giving Goodrich entry into the photography world.

“Warren Bolster was a local in La Costa, so I saw him and got to know him,” Goodrich said. “I started bringing my slides up to La Costa to the skate park and showing them to the skaters. Warren walked over one day and said, ‘Hey, can I see those?’ He asked me if it would be OK to take some of them and put in the magazine. Of course, as a young kid, I’m going, ‘Ohhhh yeah!’ Six months later, he hired me on staff at the magazine. Given I was working at the magazine, it became tough to skate, because every minute I was skating, I was missing out on getting that one shot that would be in the magazine. Over the next year, I was skating less and less, and shooting more and more”

Goodrich said skateboarding photography is unlike any other sports photography.

“It really is unique,” Goodrich said. “I was really just learning photography, and I didn’t really have anyone to teach me. Warren Bolster was not a kind, warm and fuzzy guy who would come over and say, ‘Well, why don’t you try this?’ He was unapproachable for advice. Once in a while, he’d tell me he’d like to see more of a certain kind of shot or a specific skater … .”

“It was a quarter for every shot I took, for the film and the processing. It was fairly expensive when I was shooting on my own dime, so I didn’t shoot as much. I really shot in-camera, and made every shot count, because I was a kid on a limited budget. I was really trying to learn photography as well as learn skate photography. … I started developing my own technique using slower shutter speeds, flash, remote flash, colored strobe and colored flood lights for different techniques.”

During the ’80s, Thrasher magazine was showing skateboarders doing higher aerials and crazier tricks as the sport continued to evolve.

“Craig Stecyk is famous for a quote: ‘Go for what you know you can’t make,’” Goodrich said.  “If I ever get my book finished, that’s definitely something I’m going to include, because I think it’s pretty priceless and pretty telling. But my philosophy was: It really mattered to me if the skater could pull off the trick. … I was really reluctant to shoot a skater I knew was just going for something for the photo, but couldn’t pull it off. We had this dialogue on Facebook when fans talk about my photos. They’ll ask, ‘Did they make that?’ My response 40 years later is, ‘Of course there’s no way for me to remember in certainty on any given shot.’ But one thing I can always say is, ‘That skater was able to pull off that trick, but he may not have pulled off the one that was in that actual photo.’”

Goodrich said he’s not sure whether digital technology has made a substantial impact on skateboarding photography.

“When digital first came along, I just didn’t have the money to buy the best camera with the best sensor in it. In the early years of the digital cameras, they didn’t have a good dynamic range, so you’d end up with a lot of whites blown out, and the darks didn’t have detail,” Goodrich said. “The quality of the photos didn’t come close to film. But as the technology has advanced, it became better. Because I have a better camera, I totally embrace digital and don’t miss film. I feel like it has the dynamic range now.

“From the standpoint of working in any industry as a digital photographer, it’s cheaper, and it’s almost necessary, because clients expect to see the photos on a laptop in the scene. I would say there are too many positives with digital. Whether it’s made skate photography better or worse … it’s immediate; it doesn’t cost anything to speak of; and in some ways, it’s made a lot of photographers really sloppy. You can afford to motor-drive or to shoot hundreds of photos and not be concerned about getting the shot you wanted to shoot, because you’re shooting so many photos that an idiot could get the peak action. … I still shoot in-camera even though every shot is essentially free, but I still want to get that shot. I don’t want to Photoshop it. But I totally embrace digital now.”

These days, many print skateboarding publications are gone or on their last legs.

“I dealt with it on a very personal level with Skateboarder Magazine. In 1979, skateboarding was slowing down, and I don’t think anyone saw it was going to crash,” Goodrich said. “I went through the change with that on a very personal level at Skateboarder Magazine. In order to attract new advertisers, because some skate companies were going out of business, they went to BMX to rock bands to anything else they could cover to generate additional advertising revenue. … It was definitely a difficult transition, as it was dying and (relaunched as) Action Now, and I quit, just because I wasn’t interested in shooting the other things they were covering, but also because I couldn’t make enough money to support myself … . ”

“I’m fully aware that digital makes print in most ways we’re familiar with completely irrelevant. There’s very little money to be made in print now, and it’s a very difficult market. While TransWorld is still out there, it has struggled for a few years. … It’s difficult to say what will remain in print and what will completely disappear.”

Goodrich said he agrees with El Gato Classic founder Eddie Elguera’s philosophy of the event honoring the past and championing the future. He said he’s looking forward to this year’s event after missing the inaugural event last year due to illness.

“I don’t go to too many skateboarding events; a lot of it is just too commercial for me,” Goodrich said. “I generally usually go to see my old skateboard friends, but I was really bummed I missed (the El Gato Classic) last year. I was really excited when Eddie said he was doing another one this year. Guys like Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Tony Hawk and Mark ‘Gator’ Rogowski all came in during the early ’80s, and that really was the true renaissance of skateboarding, where it really found its roots, and we found out who we were. I do love events like Eddie’s that bring the old school and the new school together. Maybe half the kids look up to people like Eddie, or Tony Hawk, who is an enigma himself, but I came from an era where the public looked at us like we were Hells Angels. We were outcasts; cops would pull us over and hassle us just because we were skaters, and not for any broken laws. For me to see society as a whole and embracing it so much … it’s just a different scene.”

The El Gato Classic will take place Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6, at various places in downtown Palm Springs; ticket prices vary. For tickets or more information, call 760-832-3388, or visit www.elgatoclassic.com. Below: Darrell Miller at Lakewood in 1979.

Published in Features

On this week's dangerous Independent comics page: This Modern World talks to a drone (and congrats to Tom Tomorrow, aka Dan Perkins, for being a Pulitzer finalist!); Jen Sorenson explains the mess in Baltimore; The K Chronicles goes skateboarding; and Red Meat gets ready to dump some dirt.

Published in Comics

Palm Springs will become the center of the skateboarding world Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25, when the area will be taken over by skateboarding’s most legendary riders for the El Gato Classic.

At the center of the event is Eddie “El Gato” Elguera, a valley resident who is a pastor at the Rock Church in Palm Desert. Elguera became a professional skateboarder in the late ’70s and went on to be a two-time world champion. He’s a major influence on many current pros, given he created several tricks that skateboarders continue to use today, such as the “Elguerial.”

“When I started back in the ’70s, when pool skating and vertical skating was coming out, there wasn’t the recognition that there is today. Now, it’s a lot more mainstream, and there are corporate sponsors like Red Bull,” said Elguera during a recent interview the Rock Church. (For more on Elguera’s religious awakening, see the sidebar.)

While Elguera is 52 now, the grandfather and father of three still has a skater look; when we spoke, he was wearing black skinny jeans, Nike skateboarding shoes, a black cardigan sweater and a red-and-black striped shirt.

Big-name skateboarders participating in the El Gato Classic include Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill and others. During a recent phone interview, Tony Hawk explained why Elguera is such an important figure in skateboarding.

“He absolutely inspired me, especially when I was coming into my own in skating,” Hawk said. “I felt like he was the most progressive skater and really a pioneer of trick-style skating. I didn’t really have the build or the natural style that a lot of skaters had, so I just loved doing tricks—and he was at the forefront of new tricks.”

Hosoi talked during a recent phone interview about the days of skateboarding when it was thought of as an outlaw sport.

“The whole ritual of skateboarding wasn’t just skateboarding; it was the discovery of finding an empty pool, planning it out, and inviting everybody to come,” he said. “… It was a pioneering thing, because no one had done it yet, and now we have grandmas taking their grandchildren to skate parks, where they’re learning to be the next Tony Hawk.”

Elguera remembered when prize money wouldn’t even cover airfare or hotel expenses for the professionals who would show up to events.

“Sometimes, first prize would be $500, or maybe $1,000,” Elguera said. “Then skateboard parks started to close because insurance companies didn’t want to insure skateparks. Skateboarding kind of took a dip after that, and that’s when the contests popped up where the prize was $100. When I was at the top, I never thought I’d still be skateboarding at 52, which I am today. Back then, you figured your career would go to 25.”

There was a goal in mind for any kid who skateboarded.

“You wanted to get sponsored,” Elguera said. “Not so much for the money and everything else, but just to get free product, because then you could get boards, get wheels, get clothes, and you didn’t have to buy all that stuff. You were like, ‘Wow, I hit the top!’ when you get your first package. You end up waiting for the UPS guy. The UPS guy for skateboarders is like Santa Claus.”

Elguera said many early innovators in his support have not received the recognition they deserve. On the El Gato Classic website, there is a graphic asking, “Have You Seen Them?” with a list of skateboarding innovators who have fallen off the radar; organizers hope these missing legends will see their names and attend.

“The El Gato Classic is where we’re taking the guys who were really pioneers and revolutionary in terms of what skateboarding could be,” he said. “A lot of the guys we’re gathering together didn’t really get the recognition, and that’s why I want to come out and just say, ‘Thank you.’ I have a saying: ‘If we honor the past and champion the future, skateboarding will never die.’ My goal with the El Gato Classic, with this first one, is to honor the past.”

There’s a reason the El Gato Classic is being held in Palm Springs, beyond Elguera’s connection to the Coachella Valley: From the late ’70s through the early ’90s, there was a spot called Nude Bowl outside of Desert Hot Springs. The former Desert Garden Ranch, which was once a nudist resort, had a kidney-shaped pool and some leftover structures that skateboarders loved. Videos from the Nude Bowl era now on YouTube show a pool with tons of graffiti; one video shows a fire engulfing the entire outer edge of the pool as people skateboard inside of it.

Today at the Palm Springs Skate Park, there is a replica of the kidney-shaped pool—sans graffiti, of course.

Hawk said he knows the Nude Bowl’s history.

“I never got to go there. It was a famous spot, and just about all the legends coming to this event have probably been there,” he said.

Hosoi said he went to the Nude Bowl all the time.

“We’d have punk-rock bands up there, and it was outlaw craziness up there on that mountain,” he said. “There were dirt roads forever to the top of this hill and just hundreds of people. It was out of control, and I’m surprised no one ever died up there, because that’s how crazy it got. It was all day, all night and ’til the next morning, to where we’d finally just say, ‘Gotta go!’ because there was no more in us.”

Proceeds from the El Gato Classic will go to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which works to build skate parks in low-income communities.

“The perception of skating in those areas when a park first gets built—there’s usually some pushback about having a skate park, and what it means, and what kind of crowd it will attract,” Hawk said. “When a city finally approves a project, and they see that there’s a community that rallies around it, they end up building more. We’re empowering communities that are already trying to help themselves.”

It’s well-known that in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Hawk and Hosoi were rivals in vertical-skating events. At the El Gato Classic, they just might have another epic skate battle.

“I feel like he and I have come a long way,” Hawk said about his former competitor. “We’re no longer rivals and are more like comrades. We’re happy we’re still doing this for a living and that people come out to see us. I think we’re just more appreciative of the fact we’re still here than trying to compete with each other. When we get together, even in a competition setting, it’s more of a celebration.”

Hosoi said he agrees, but joked that he still feels the rivalry at times.

“We like to have fun, but we’re competitive,” Hosoi said with a laugh. “It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s playing pool or throwing rocks at a can 100 feet away—we are going to compete!”

The El Gato Classic will take place Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25; the times, prices and venues vary. For more information, visit www.elgatoclassic.com.

Published in Features

Skateboarding and punk rock have long been connected—but for the members of GFP, aka General Fucking Principle, they are both ways of life.

The relatively new punk supergroup is scheduled to play at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Saturday, Sept. 21.

GFP consists of former DFL (Dead Fucking Last) vocalist Tom Paul Davis, aka Crazy Tom; skateboarding legend and Dogtown Z-Boy Tony Alva on bass; Bad Religion and Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson; and drummer Grant Garrison, who played with H.R. of the Bad Brains.

Davis originally had the idea for GFP back in 2009.

“We came together after I went to see The Germs and Suicidal Tendencies reunion concert in Los Angeles,” said Davis during a recent phone interview. “I had an itching to get back into music. I skated a pool before with Alva, and it just sort of came to me. I thought, ‘Hey, I should call Alva, and we should get together and do a jam.’ I had a drummer who I was thinking about for a little while, and I kind of worked to put the pieces of the puzzle together from there.

The band has suffered through some lineup changes in its relatively brief time. There were originally two guitarists when the band went into the studio, but Davis had a hard time getting along with guitarist Aime Caron.

“We went to record a demo, and he wanted to kick the other guitar player out of the band,” Davis explained. “He went ahead and did that. He was like, ‘I can handle the whole load by myself,’ and I was like, ‘All right, dude. I’m not going to keep having these brawls with you. If you think you can handle it, go ahead.’ We went to do the demo, and he just kinda bugged out on my idea, which was to go into the recording studio to do our 14 songs live and record them as fast as possible without a whole bunch of overdubs and Pro Tools tracking-style stuff, which he was used to doing.”

That’s when Davis reached out to Hetson. “What happened is we asked Greg to help us produce the demo, and he liked the music a lot. When I called Greg and told him Aime quit the band, and I asked him if he felt like playing guitar, he said yes.”

While the band members are all decidedly unique individuals with independent visions, Davis said there haven’t been any problems.

“Actually, everything is organic between me, Greg and Alva,” he said. “We all come from Hollywood, Los Angeles and beach cities, so we’re all influenced by the same bands we grew up with—Black Flag, The Germs, The Weirdos, TSOL and X. … The rest of the guys are a little older than me, so I look up to them as big brothers.”

Alva is one of the pioneers of skateboarding and was a part of the Zephyr skateboarding team in the ‘70s in Venice Beach. While Alva is known more for skateboarding, he has been involved in the punk scene as the bassist for The Skoundrelz.

“He is an incredible bass-player,” said Davis. “He plays without a pick, which is a really incredible bass-playing style in punk rock.”

While punk rock never died, it did go through a dry spell in the last decade. Today, the drought is over: GFP is one of several newer punk-rock supergroups, while older punk bands are reuniting or recording again.

“Some of the bands I grew up with are Pennywise, NOFX and Rancid. DFL was on Epitaph with all those guys,” Davis said. “When we broke up, those bands just continued to keep playing. They didn’t break up, but they didn’t get any bigger and just kept going. I think a lot of bands just watched what happened and realized it and said, ‘We should get back together.’

“What’s amazing is all these bands are still out there from when I was a kid and when I was on Epitaph. It’s great to see it still going strong. I think a lot of it has to do with skateboarding being a major influence in punk rock. Skateboarding is popular as well.”

The band is currently recording its debut album, which Davis said has been delayed due to the departure of drummer Amery Smith, of Suicidal Tendencies. Davis said that they hope to have the album out within the next six months.

When it comes to their show at The Hood, Davis said he is excited.

“I really enjoy the shows away from Los Angeles,” Davis said. “People here are controlled by stargazing and shoegazing. … I would expect an old-school vibe; we like to bring our skateboards. We like to hang out in the crowd and talk to people. I think it’s going to be really fun.”

Davis did have one concern about playing in the Coachella Valley.

“I hope there’s air-conditioning!” he said.

GFP will play with Year of the Dragon and Throw the Goat at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Admission is $5, and there are no presales. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event on Facebook.

Published in Previews